Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Holly Jolly Rice-And-Gravy Christmas

(Yeah, so I'm a little behind in getting this finished and posted... but I finished and it's posted, miracle of miracles, and I hope to update very soon with news from the start of the new semester. Wheeeee.... it's crazy, it's crazy, this place makes me crazy...)

Fear not, dear reader, both the rice AND the gravy shall be explained in due time. But for now...

December 24th, 10pm Central Standard Time. I can't believe a year went by so fast...

*stops typing, turns off her RENT playlist, and continues typing*

Right then. As you may or may not know, my family is quite keen on keeping holiday traditions, though not to the point of keeping a tradition for a tradition's sake. Most often, our Christmas traditions were started when Mom and Dad sat down and said, "All right, how can we see your family and my family before New Year's without going completely insane?", and thus what we have done for as long as I can remember --switching back and forth between the two families so that we are not with one side of the family on Christmas Day two years in a row-- is for the sake of keeping our lives simple and keeping all the relatives happy.

First in the tradition process? The preparations. As I stated in my post about Milton Thanksgiving traditions, our Christmas decorating starts Thanksgiving Night after all the extended family members have gone home. Mom and Dad first figured out back when my sister and I were but wee kiddies that bringing out the Christmas tree on Thanksgiving Night kept the family from getting the post-holiday blues; again, a tradition begun to keep our lives simple and keep everyone happy... besides, it gives us something to look forward to after the headache-generating chaos of Thanksgiving. I have so many fond memories of the annual tree decoration, many of which revolve around the humorous process of annually forgetting which tree branches get installed first (often accompanied by Dad shoving a branch at me or my sister and asking, "Does that look like red or orange to you?"), the painstaking task of keeping the cats out of the tree once it's set up, and endless hours of playing The Find-The-One-Bad-Bulb-In-The-String-Of-Five-Thousand-That-Makes-All-The-Others-Go-Out Game. Truth be told, we have even been known to play The Oh-You-Mean-THAT-Giant-Hairy-Spider-In-The-Tree-Bin! Game, but only on very rare occasion. And, after the tree is up, whether or not the garlands go up in the Dining Room is often dependent on how many giant hairy spiders we've found throughout the evening. :)

The events leading up to Christmas are almost as exciting as celebrating the holiday itself. There is a semi-annual caroling party with the members of our church, which always starts the downhill snowball of anticipation for Christmas. Every year we bundle up and gather together at our church, load up in car caravans and the church van with kids, our pastor, our choir director, the youth group, and any brave souls who don't mind riding in the van with the youth group; we have a box of candles, a box of carol songbooks (since no one seriously knows anything past the first stanza of a Christmas carol, as far as I've observed), and more gusto than we have actual ability to sing. However, this year's party was a bit of a bummer. There were no candles, hardly anyone from my youth group, and worst of all, it was sixty-five degrees outside. I've never seen so many carolers in tee-shirts and shorts in my life. ...it was a tad depressing, to say the least, but there's always next year to make up for it.

Another fine tradition we Miltons look forward to is the annual Office party, in which all six of the office workers, including Mom and Dad, gather together for fellowship over the dining room table... okay, so it's not as snazzy as a full-blown office party -- we pretty much just sit around and eat ribs. Lots of ribs. There's a place here in town that makes the most amazing, mouth-watering, fall-off-the-bone ribs this side of Birmingham, so if the promise of a good time is not enough to get everyone together, the dangling carrot of Fat Man's ribs certainly is. My sister and I are not workers in the Office, but seeing as how Dad's business is stationed in the house and Kate and I kind of live here, we are fortunate enough to not be left out of the festivities. ...plus, we like the ribs, too.

But I digress...

Family! Ah, family. I can't understand why folks my age say they hate visiting relatives. Every other year we spend Christmas with my mom's side in Huntsville, and that's where all the fun begins. Whenever we all get together, it's known that someone will inevitably begin yet another family running joke; this is where the "rice and gravy" comes in, as it is one such joke. At my cousin's graduation in May 2005, the night my family arrived Aunt Kim had prepared a huge pot of rice to go with our KFC dinner, but she thought the rest of the family was coming that night and fixed far too much rice (it was enough to feed a small army, but not quite enough to feed my church's youth group). And, considering KFC gave us twice as much gravy as we'd asked, we had (easily, IMO) a gallon of gravy and more rice than anyone should want to eat in a lifetime. Needless to say, we ate rice and gravy with everything that weekend, and nowadays we still grin and rib each other at the mention of the rice and the gravy. Another joke of which my mother is fond of reminding me has to do with my rather accident-prone nature. Growing up, I thought it would go away as I entered adolescence, but it only got worse as I entered Jr. High. So, when I was fourteen, we spent Christmas Eve in the Huntsville emergency room because I had mysteriously gotten poison ivy around my eye. Ever since then, when we drive past the emergency room, Mom says, "Elizabeth, let's go visit everyone at the hospital, just for old times' sake!"

Every year at my grandparents' house, we endeavor to cram as many people into a house that, as it has been noted, could crumble at the foundation if my grandfather's snoring boston terrier decided to sleep in just the right place. In fact, for many years there was so much snoring between my uncles, my dad, and BeeJay (the dog) that I'm surprised no one came to investigate the unexplained seismic activity in my grandparents' neighborhood. But the house has survived; that three-bedroom/two-bathroom house has been the cozy lodging for all thirteen of us (fifteen if you count the two dogs; sixteen if you count my cousin Britany's boyfriend) for as many Christmases as I can remember, but we're all so noisy and having so much fun that we never think twice about how tight a squeeze it really is. As a matter of fact, we seem to run out of room for presents once we fill up the house with humans and dogs, and one year Dad the Engineer came up with a solution that we came to call The Tower of Presents, built in the corner of Koo Koo and Papa's dining room. It was an elaborate and delicate operation that, since then, has become a bit of a tradition... mainly because it's so entertaining to watch Dad, Uncle Jim, and Michael get so involved with the Tower construction. These three are also the amigos who must, must, must have a game of Risk whenever the opportunity arises. Ah, yes, nothing quite brings a family together like a friendly game that will ultimately determine world domination.

Oh, and as a point of interest, Aunt Kim was in charge of the prep for Christmas dinner. We had ham, casseroles, carrots, deviled eggs, rolls... and, of course, rice and gravy.

Monday, December 11, 2006

An Exerpt From Myrran

Shameless plug #2? Naaah... Of course not...
An excerpt from a chapter of the story I'm working on (I say "THE story" because it's the only long-term project I've had for the past three years...), supposedly --if you take Suzanne's opinion of things-- the best one so far. It's also the most recent, and I've only barely started on the next chapter. The rest of the story can be found by clicking on that little link on the right side of your screen that looks like it might be connected to the stuff I've written
With that said, I must confess that the story itself is not so good. My writing keeps maturing as I get older (so by the time I'm 30 I'll have something written that a publisher won't laugh at, methinks), and since I've been working on this for so long, I'm to the point where the beginning frustrates me but I'm mostly satisfied with everything from about chapter seventeen on.
It's two in the morning. I'm rambling, I'm about to fall asleep here in the commons, and I should really be in bed, but Jack won't leave me alone. Aargh... stupid Aussie! >_<

"Yeah, "don't get yourself killed"," Jack muttered to himself. "Great advice..." He tugged off his sneakers and socks, took one last look at the lake, and left his shoes with his shirt and vest at the place where the lake's rocky beach ended and the canyon's rock began. After making slow progress on the slippery wet rock behind the waterfall, Jack peered carefully past the edge of the cave's entrance. When nothing moved or jumped out to eat his face, he slid around the corner into the dim cavern.

It was, at best, a cavern. After careful examination of his nearest surroundings, Jack felt a little disappointed at the plainness of it all; he had at least expected a booby trap of poisoned darts, maybe a giant rolling boulder... but this was just a cave. It was wet, it was cold, and (seeing as how Jack had not slept in the past twenty-four hours) it was irritating.

But something had to be here. The magic of the necklaces never lied, and everyone's had pointed him in this direction. So, with one last look around, Jack pressed on farther into the cavern passageways.

His necklace glowed bright, but the faintest candle could have been a lighthouse in that inky darkness; however, it was all he had, so he slipped it from around his neck and held it like a crystalline torch as he went on. He let his fingertips run along the damp wall, though he was unsure why. There was no way he could lose his path, since the passage he was following did not fork right or left, nor did it present any challenge at all. To him, it just seemed like the thing to do.

Something up ahead glinted in the light: a reflection on a pool of water. Jack approached it slowly, watching all the while how the glow from his necklace seemed to grow brighter as he moved towards the water. The water was clearer than any he had ever seen; he could see all the way to the bottom of the pool, and he followed the steep underwater slope with his eyes until it disappeared under a wall some twenty feet from him that turned the passage into a dead-end. Jack searched for anything to serve as handholds or footholds so that he might climb over the wall, but all he could find was a single hole; a hole through which he could see another cavern on the other side. The wall only seemed twelve or eighteen feet thick... it was a moment before Jack resigned himself to his fate and, after wrapping his necklace around his wrist for its safety, jumped into the water. It was freezing! The coldness constricted his chest and choked out the air from his lungs; Jack resurfaced gasping for breath, then gritted his teeth, dove back under, and pushed off as hard as he could from the rock behind him.

He swam with his eyes open, even though the cold water stung painfully at them. With one arm he swam as best he could; the other held his necklace outstretched, bathing the underwater tunnel in blue light that danced along the walls. Jack was only swimming for thirty seconds or so, but he was already feeling a little faint by the time he saw the darkness of the opening ahead of him. He swam hard and burst from the water with a loud gasp. For a moment he floated tiredly on his back and listened to the sounds of his hard panting echo against the cavern walls.

When Jack felt he could move again, he crawled unsteadily out onto the rocky ground and began to wave his necklace around in random directions to find another lead. But something caught his eye: a gleam just past the edge of the darkness. He stood, albeit a little shakily, and started towards it; his necklace glowed brighter, and Jack felt a jolt of excitement that made him walk faster. Thirty feet from the tunnel, embedded in the wall and reflecting blue light onto the rocks, was the shard.

The sight rejuvenated him. Jack dashed over to the wall and reached to pull the shard from its rocky home. To his surprise, the wall began to dissolve when his necklace brushed against it. The shard fell easily into his hand. It felt strangely warm against his cold, wet skin, and its clear luminescent glow on his hand was a more than welcome sight.

Jack grinned. Strewth, I'm good, he thought and easily tossed the shard to himself.

But as he turned to go back to the tunnel, the ground started to tremble. Jack stopped. What was that? He looked around warily and waved his crystal to ward off the darkness, but he could only see the disturbances in the water from the tremors. He grimaced; why couldn't something go smooth, just once?

A loud roar echoed through the cavern that sent Jack sprinting for the tunnel. He jumped in with a running dive, keeping a firm grasp on both the shard and his necklace. An ominous booming vibrated the water around him; it sounded like a large boulder was being used in some titanic pinball game. What could be making so much noise?

Jack emerged on the other side and scurried up onto dry land. He barely had time to shake the water from his eyes before something heavily rammed into the wall behind him, and the shockwave through the floor knocked him off his feet. The shard flew from his hand and fell back into the water behind him, and Jack scrambled to try and catch it before it sank to the bottom, but his fingers merely brushed against it on its way down. No! He shoved himself back under the cold water, groping around on the rocky floor of the pool before he felt the warmth of the crystal shard against his fingers; he grabbed the shard, pulled himself out of the water, and made a mad dash back through the passageway.

As he skidded around the corner, another deafening roar filled the cavern of the waterfall. It was louder than the thunder from the most terrifying storm imaginable, and it shook the stone walls of the cavern even through the floor. Jack was closing fast on the entrance to the cave and he tried to slow down to turn the corner, but he slipped on the wet rocks and hit the ground hard before falling heavily into the water below. His body was throbbing painfully from his collision with the ground, but he managed to hold firmly onto the shard this time.

He surfaced coughing up water and opened his eyes as something flew overhead; by the light of the setting moon, Jack could see that it was long and sleek; it looked like a prodigious winged serpent, but it had a whiplike tail and ice blue scales that shimmered in the moonlight. It threw back its head and let out the roar of a dragon, and the other Saviors on the shore jumped in surprise and started shouting in panic. From where he was, Jack could see that Anne was running towards the waterclimb cavern with her fists engulfed in her magic fire. He called to her, but she couldn't hear him. The great serpent turned around, spotted the running girl, and growled low in its throat as it flew towards her. Anne froze halfway up the path, staring at the oncoming dragon and unable to move.

Jack's mind was racing. He put two fingers to his mouth and whistled loudly; the dragon stopped and turned its freezing blue eyes on him. A wicked grin spread across the boy's face. "Hey! You're trying to eat me, remember? Come and get me!"

The dragon glared and growled at him, and Jack felt a surge of adrenaline that pushed him into action. He shoved the shard into his pocket and dove under, swimming hard against the current of the waterclimb in an attempt to draw the dragon away from the others. Behind him, he heard the great beast break the surface of the water, and Jack panicked. He hadn't thought the dragon could swim...

It didn't swim; it flew through the water, furious and undeterred. Jack opened his eyes to see the dragon as it shot effortlessly past him, but he couldn't move to avoid being hit by its tail and he was sent tumbling aimlessly through the water. His lungs burned, weary from and unaccustomed to this sort of abuse; his limbs ached and felt hot regardless of the cold water around him, then he felt the familiar cooling sensation that spread through him from the inside out. His body was healing.

Jack righted himself in the water by swimming towards the brightest blur he could see. When he surfaced, he saw that the dragon was already ahead of him and was turning around in midair to dive at him again. The other Saviors were trying to help; Kitt was firing at it with her blaster and Soren and Shawn were using their energy attacks, while Erin kept one hand on each of their shoulders to heal them if they grew weary. Though the attacks made direct hits on the dragon, in its rage it could only see that Jack was the one with its precious shard. The Saviors were only fueling its anger.

He started swimming towards the shore opposite his friends, all the while knowing he could not out-swim a flying dragon. It made no splash when it dove underwater twenty yards behind him. Jack clenched his jaw and pushed every muscle in his body to swim just a little faster... if he could make it to shore, he could run--

The dragon's head came up underneath him and violently threw him into the air. Jack cried out, scrambling to grab at a handhold that wasn't there; he fell helplessly back into the water closer to shore than before, and his back hit the rocky bottom hard and knocked the wind out of him. Jack painfully fought to swim to the surface and burst from the water gasping for air. His hand flew to his pocket, and he inwardly sighed in relief. The shard was still there. Above him, the dragon was readying itself for another pass. The water around him was only up to his shoulders now, so Jack started once again to swim for the shore despite the protests from every part of his body. He saw Anne running along the shoreline to meet him, but he was too out of breath to call to her and tell her to run; couldn't she see the dragon behind him?

Just when Jack's feet could finally touch the bottom, he heard the dragon's roar pierce the cool morning air once more as it circled menacingly above him. He tried to run, but his legs could no longer support his own weight and they gave way underneath him. The dragon was diving for him again, its cold eyes fixed on him in a fearsome glare...

A blast of white fire came from behind Jack's head, so hot that he cowered in surprise and watched it fade slowly back to yellow before he moved again. He turned his head to see Anne, or what should've been Anne, standing behind him on the shore and giving that dragon everything she had. She no longer looked like her normal self: her entire body was engulfed in flame. Her skin was blazing in the twilight shadows, her hands had become flames themselves, and her eyes were glowing even brighter than the white fire had been. The boy shivered at the sight of her. She was almost as frightening as the dragon!

Jack took the opportunity to scramble for the shore, where Shawn and Soren were the first to meet him. They briefly exchanged glances, then Shawn started to fire upon the dragon while Soren helped Jack to his feet. The healing within him turned unbearably cold and he hissed his indrawn breath, finding himself too proud to even groan at the pain. It was only for a moment; the pain died away and Jack drew his sword just as Anne's fire flickered out and she fell to the ground. Jack glared fiercely at the dragon and, with a cry of rage, hurled his sword like a spear at its head. The sword had all his strength behind it; in a remarkable stroke of luck, its blade hit the dragon in the eye with a sickening squelch, and all but the hilt disappeared into the head of the beast.

The dragon shrieked and writhed in pain, but it had no arms to reach or remove the sword. Navy blood fountained from the wound and spilled into the water below. Shawn took aim and fired one last shot; it hit the wounded eye and exploded like a bolt of lightning through the dragon's brain. There was one final roar of suffering as the dragon fell into the water with a great splash, and then there was nothing at all. It was dead.

Jack ignored the pangs of cold within him and fell to his knees beside Anne. She was lifeless; her skin was pale and unusually cold, blood was trickling from her nose, and her hands were red and shiny from the burns left by her own fire. Jack felt her forehead and face with his wet hand, and put his ear close to her nose and listened. She was still breathing! "Erin, get over here!" He shouted hoarsely.

Erin skidded to a stop beside him and knelt to put her hands on Anne. She closed her eyes in concentration and, in a moment that seemed to last an eternity, the burns on Anne's hands slowly disappeared. Erin let out a gasp and cradled her head in her hands. "I can't do anything else," she moaned. "I'm almost out of energy! I must've used it up on Soren and Shawn." Off of Jack's harsh look, she glared right back at him. "I did as much as I could!"

"You're sure about that?" Jack growled. When he received no reply, He forced himself to stare angrily at the lake. The water was slowly turning navy from the blood of the dragon, and the light of the rising sun reflected dully off the surface of the lake. It would've been a calming sight if his mind was not clouded with worry. Why didn't Anne stop just before she ran out of energy, like Erin did? Why did she have to be so reckless...?

Behind him, he heard someone's footfalls on the rocky beach and he was almost surprised to see Kitt kneel down next to him. She put a hand on his shoulder and said, "I know you want to help her, but healing others isn't your power. You have to let Erin rest. In a few minutes she'll try to revive Anne again."

"I wonder if you could actually try not to read my mind," he said tersely.

Kitt frowned. "I don't have to. I could feel your emotions from across the lake if I wanted to!" She stood and started to walk away, but turned around and gave the boy one last look over her shoulder. "Oh, and because you were wondering... she didn't stop because she didn't want to."

"She didn't... what?"

"Exactly that," Kitt said. "When I got into her mind and asked her to stop, she claimed she couldn't; but really, I think she just didn't want to."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Anything Is Funny In Retrospect

I suppose that all I'm really looking forward to next year are the stories.

You know the kind of stories I mean. They're different from the stories you try to tell people from back home. They're the ones that upperclassmen tell to lowly freshmen in their first semester; the one that rekindles a running joke, or perhaps starts a new one all together. Now, I've been watching for these stories all semester, and while I'm a little sad that I don't have anything to top The Gallery Couch/Window Story (to which the moral is "Make sure the RD is off the mountain before you try to throw an old disgusting couch out the window"), I have been assured that nothing could top that.

Currently in the lead:
*Our biggest running joke on Gallery, I think, is Tuesday. Tuesday is the crazy day, so if you do something completely insane that could become a story later in the year, just blame it on the fact that it's Tuesday -- the fact that everyone acts crazy on Tuesdays has to do with a conspiracy theory that the administration dumps their supply of liquid crack into the waterworks, specifically the pipes that go to the water fountains. And if you're caught acting crazy on a day other than Tuesday on Gallery, we have the perfect solution: "Every day is Tuesday on Gallery!"

*During Orientation Week, we kept finding new ways to meet people within our O-Team. In fact, our own dear Annie met Wes when he stepped on her foot during a violent game of "I Have Never..." and made her toe bleed.

*In this semester alone I have gotten used to being introduced to people as "Caroline's Twin", which is, in itself, a long story.

*The Psych Animal Lab suffered the loss of three rats, one seemingly right after the other, in the middle of the rat training process. One of the rats starved, we think; as for the others, no one is completely sure as to their COD (not like they're going to get Dr. Robbins to do a rat autopsy or anything...), but there was a scare that there might be a "sickness" going around the rat lab. Funnily enough, at the same time, my Psych class seemed to be sharing a cold from student to student :) ...okay, funny in a kind of sadistic way, I guess, but irony is fun.

*Kilter at the Tennessee Aquarium was cut abruptly short when the aquarium staff discovered that "someone" had tampered with the exhibits and threatened the once-protected aquatic animals' lives. There was also a turtle in the girls' bathroom, but he was unrelated to the exhibit vandalism. I don't know if the culprits ever came forward, especially when they saw the way the entire student body reacted (let's just say the posession of large amounts of dangerously hot tar does not go against contract...).

*Thirty minutes into Around Founders, the boys on Blackwatch accidentally set off the fire alarms with their fog machine. But all was not a completely horrible experience. Even though we got to stand out in the cold, foggy night for much longer than it should have taken to switch off the alarm, I got to watch the firemen try to get into Founders without an ID card. (Oh, I'm SO reassured that we will all be safe if we have an actual emergency -- especially if the police, the fire department, or the paramedics can't figure out how to get the gorram doors to open...) So please, if you're visiting Covenant, we ask very kindly that you not set off the fire alarms. I have a five-pound key in my room; it, like the tar, is not against Contract, and I'm not afraid to use it.

*On a trip into "the city" around midnight, Kate, Anne, and I were asked for drugs from a guy who claimed to be a runaway-from-home. We calmed ourselves down afterwards by hypothesizing that the guy could have been an undercover cop, since he really looked too old to still be living at home... (note: we also learned from this experience to NEVER GO ANYWHERE AFTER MIDNIGHT)

*In 23-degree weather, a trip from Founders to Carter with wet hair will most likely result in frozen hair. Yes, I admit, it's possible that I got a little too excited about it when it happened.... but it was wicked awesome, and it crunched, which made it all the more awesome. (Anne's reaction was the best -- she said "Oh my goodness..." all worried-like, only to follow with, "Wow, can I touch it?" ^^ I love my roommate...)

I'm actually rather fond of the latter two stories and hope they are eventually promoted into the story category. Though, if you keep watching the comment conversations at the end of the blog posts, they are quite amusing and, most of the time, somehow inevitably end with the realization that "this is just a HUGE misunderstanding!"

Your website of the day is yet another random bit of fun. Enjoy! ^^

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Family Gatherings, Take Two

I love holidays with my family. Food, fun, and running joke fodder can all be found within the confines of a house that, depending on the holiday, the side of the family, and the house, should not be able to hold as many people as we cram into it. Every holiday is full of the delicious chaos that I've grown to know and love.

But I have to tell you, as much as I love my extended family, they are a little, um... shall we say, eccentric? Odd? Sitcom material?

Thanksgiving is all about traditions for my Dad's family, and I have figured out over the years that "traditions" translates to "a huge list of do's and don't's. For starters, Grandmama has only taught one of her granddaughters the "secret family recipe" for the dressing that must be made every year, and she has supernatural senses that let her know if the dressing isn't exactly right (in fact, I seem to remember a story in which she chastized my cousin for not wanting to pull the chicken off the bone with her fingers...). And if she arrives while the food is still being prepared, she personally watches over the baking process, including giving instruction on how to properly stir the not-quite solidified dressing. But not to worry, my dear grandmother does not descriminate -- she is this way when it comes to any dish. I mean, heaven help the soul who puts marshmallows on the sweet potato casserole instead of brown sugar, or does not have a proper Ritz-cracker-to-cheese ratio on the pineapple casserole.

The meal is always at our house, which means Mom is in a reasonable state of panic if everything is not ready before eleven. We always have to have a table decoration theme worthy of a Southern Living magazine, and it has to be different every year for fear that one of the in-laws will notice that, "Lord have mercy, Debbie reused Thanksgiving decorations!" My mother also puts a quick stop to any wonderfully impish Weasley-twins ideas my sister and I might have, and has ever since we threatened to put live creatures in the pinecone arrangement two years ago. She was not very amused last year when we managed a clever little trick with the salt shakers on the main table, especially when the first victim turned out to be Grandmama (and why I was the only one who got in trouble, I will never know). But it's still fun to dream of troublemaking schemes, even if we can't get away with anything.

Table conversation is sometimes like walking on eggshells. One must not talk of religion, politics, or football while at the table, but inevitably someone will break this unspoken rule. My personal favorite is from a clever little stab like trying to get a cute little member of the second generation of cousins to say "Roll Tide!", to which someone (Mom or Dad, most likely) will reply, "No, no, you're saying it wrong, it's War Eagle!", and Kate and I mentally add a tally to the cumulative "number of times we've heard that one." And during the meal, everyone who made something must be complimented on their dish. This is often a tricky situation, as it is imperative that the right dish be attributed to the right person, otherwise you're likely to step on Aunt Kathy's or one of the cousins' toes and start a feud. ...okay, I lie, maybe not a feud. At most, maybe a hissy fit.

The new traditions are already starting, too. It's weird to have our cousins' children running around; Matthew and Andrew, who are respectively 8 and 6 (I think... o_o how old are they now?), MUST watch my old Land Before Time videos after the meal, and it has been this way ever since they learned to put the words "little" and "foot" together and somehow make it sound like a ferocious demand. The first two years, I didn't mind. In fact, it was kinda cute -- they were carrying on an obsession that had, at one point, been near and dear to my heart. But I never thought my once-sweet memories of happy little dinosaurs would turn into ghastly torturous sprints down Memory Lane, chased by the haunting sound of high-pitched voices singing all the songs that the rest of my family had long ago suppressed from memory. It's utterly beyond me why my little first-cousins-once-removed have not discovered the magic and wonder of 80's and 90's Disney movies -- I mean, at least I can shamelessly sing along with those without finding myself thinking things like, "Thank you, Lord, for sending us the Ice Age!"

And, as we progress through the afternoon and the little cousins leave (at which point Kate and I dive for the storage bin of Disney movies), the adults begin their "new" tradition: dominoes. I don't know who got my grandmother and my aunt into dominoes in the first place, but most of my adolescence is tainted with memories of that sharp crack of a domino being slammed on the dining room table so loud that our neighbors across the street could testify that Aunt Kathy has one domino left. But I guess I shouldn't complain -- their last game obsession was Spades, and that one went on so long that even I, the one who on a game-by-game basis still has mild difficulty remembering the rules of Uno, learned how to play. All the same, I usually find myself in the TV room with Kate and an old Disney movie we haven't seen since I was six... and when we run out of those, it's up to whoever is quicker at the draw as to whether we watch my Aladdin DVD or her Beauty and the Beast VHS.

The one thing I most look forward to comes after everyone else has left our house. We pack up all the Fall decorations that Mom put out back in September, put them away, and get out our family Christmas tree (artificial, of course; have you ever tried to get pine sap out of carpet? Ugh...). Kate puts Mannheim Steamroller in the stereo, we put up the tree, Dad does the lights (and I help, sort of ^^;), and all the jam-packed bins of Christmas ornaments come down from the top of Kate's closet; in those bins we have collected more ornaments over the years than could fit in the local Hallmark store, not to mention the collection of around-the-house decorations. We have more decorations than I can consciously recognize anymore -- I'll point out something with a "When did we get that?", to which Mom says, "Oh, don't you remember? We got it the year that..." and rattles off a tale from a Christmas that I do remember, but the recollection as to the origin of the decoration still evades me. Sometimes it makes my failing memory feel better to believe that she makes up a new Don't You Remember story for things that she, in reality, bought in the summer from a clearance sale and managed to pack it away before I caught a glimpse of it.

And with the changing of seasons comes the transitions to other holidays... maybe next I'll get to write about my Mom's family and the chaotic Christmases in Huntsville. Ah, good times...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Shameless Plug? Oooh, Yeah.

While I'm working on my Thanksgiving update (yes, that's how much free time I DON'T have right now!), here's a little thing to tide you over. ...and by "little", I mean "only start watching if you have an hour and a half of free time on your hands".

This is a full-length movie that is, quite possibly, the best Mystery Science Theater 3000 I have ever seen. I know I have not seen very much (I mean, if I could sit down one month and watch all ten seasons, I most certainly would...), but I am never quick to label anything "the best" or "the greatest" or "the most awesome thing on the face of the earth". And besides, the movie speaks for itself.

(If you are unfamiliar with the premise of MST3K, Wikipedia has a cornucopia of information that I suggest you become mildly familiar with before clicking the link. And this might not be the best intro MST for some, but it worked for me ^^)

And now our feature presentation, an incredibly '80s movie called Space Mutiny. For full effect, after the movie loads you can flicker some lights on and off while screaming "WE'VE GOT MOVIE SIGN!" :) And make sure to watch for the undead crew member!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sometimes The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is A 1,500 Word Paper Strapped To A Flashlight

With the first semester drawing ever nearer to Finals (a.k.a. Hell Week), I've had time to reflect upon my first four months of Covenant life. ...not very much time, I'm afraid, but enough to analyze my observations and put them into my dear little blog.

The daily routine up at Covenant is more along the lines of a weekly routine; ask any student what their near-future plans are like, and they'll probably say something like: "Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I do this, Tuesdays and Thursdays I do this, and weekends I do a whole lot of this!" The days go by like the twenty-four hours they are, but the accepted unit of time up here seems to be "weeks", seeing as how anyone will voluntarily unload their week's schedule to you if they are stressed enough. However, this is only true when we are not eagerly awaiting -or doggedly struggling towards- an upcoming break. Then we bring back "days" so we can count down how long we have until we can sleep the sweet, sweet slumber of the academically dead; the kind of sleep that comes to those who are not worrying about tests, papers, grades, or even getting up in time for morning classes.

(If that rant didn't make any sense, just blame it on my 3,785 minutes of accumulated sleep deprivation.)

Everyone is crazy during the week. Classes keep the students running around from one building to the next, and some are calmer than the others -- I can be stressing and wailing about a next-day test for which I've already studied my brains out, but some of the more seasoned individuals study in silence with iron expressions only worn by those in utmost concentration. I don't know how they do it, but somehow the distractions of the hall don't seem to faze them.

With all the studying that goes on, much to my surprise there are still more daily antics than we know what to do with. I would have thought that college life would drain any regular human being of his very life force and leave him a dry, withered heap in mid-crawl to his Xbox. But college kids... we're an interesting bunch of individuals. Where others would buckle under the stress and suffer nervous breakdowns, college kids thrive by feeding off of the stress like it's a bag of chocolate-covered coffee beans. It does... things... to our brains... Some of the stronger make it to Finals before some of the stress leaks out; others are not so fortunate. They succumb to the infectious symptoms of insanity and start to let it out by performing random antics in public, and always where you least expect it: for instance, a guy in my Psych class came in one day wearing a superhero cape in mid-September. Other people spontaneously act out in the middle of the Great Hall (I swear, it's only a matter of time until someone re-enacts La Vie Boheme in there!). Just a month ago, a friend of mine wheeled a suitcase into the Great Hall, pulled it over to a table, and unzipped it so his hallmate could climb out and go swipe his card at the register. Yes, Covenant students are nothing if not creative.

If the days and weeks go by like this, I can only imagine what years of exposure could do to the upperclassman brain. But I guess I shouldn't assume that everyone reacts to stress in the same way as the suitcase guy... actually, lately I have begun to notice certain adaptive traits in the upperclassmen that we "poor wee freshies" have yet to develop. When someone screams in the Great Hall, only the Freshmen look to see what's going on. When a hall hangs a banner from the chapel roof, only the Freshmen seem impressed. When it's Veal Fritter Day in the Great Hall, only Freshmen have included the meaty monstrosity as a part of their balanced meal. If someone is wandering around the administrative part of Carter with a hopelessly lost look in his eyes, or someone is complaining about the "bathroom problem" and she lives in Mac... well, you get the idea.

(Wow. I just noticed how long a list of "You Know They're a Covenant Freshman When..." I could write. Shiny!)

My point is, it seems that the semesterly (is that a word?) stressors are likely to bring out peoples' "true" natures; but whether that nature includes dancing on tables, becoming a hoveling mass of tears, or adapting for survival and moving on is different for each student.

Hey, I think I just found a topic I can use for my SIP in three-and-a-half years...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

You Think YOU Had a Bad Day?

Okay, no, I have not had an unreasonably bad day today. I was just looking through some of my journal entries from my Latin club's trip to Europe and was remembering just how terrible our first few days in Rome were. Seriously, Shakespeare could not have written a better comedy of errors.

This has been revised from the original entries for your reading pleasure. Enjoy.
Names! So you're not unbelievably confused...:
[The students: myself, Chrissy, Naomi, Jennifer, Katina, Jordan, Andrew, and Abigail.][Important people to remember who are not students: Lee (my teacher), Phil ("Papa Phil", her husband), Miss Teri (our female chaperone, and mother of Katina), and Patrick (Lee's and Phil's son, who was of legal age to be a chaperone but declined the title).]

Rome promised to be quite a learning experience even before we set foot outside the airport. Through ways of which I am still unsure, we were invited to join the yearly Founding of Rome parade. All of us, a little group of homeschoolers from Alabama, were going to be the first group of Americans to ever walk in the parade. It was a great honor, and a few of us were excited about it. Now... the arrangements Lee had made with the historical reinactors ("Groupo Historico" ...no, I'm not joking) were that someone was supposed to meet us after we landed and made our way through customs. When we finally got our luggage and walked past every sign-carrying pedestrian, there was no member of the historical group to meet us. This struck us as a little odd. So, we sat in the airport until Papa Phil, who had been exploring around a bit, rushed back to us to say that the people had been waiting for us outside this whole time. Oops.

Exiting the airport, we were hit head-on by a steady rain and a cold wind. The weather made the chaos outside even worse than it was, and it took me a minute to realize that the two strange Italian guys wearing the nuclear highlighter-yellow vests were taking our suitcases because they were from Groupo Historico. They loaded our luggage into a white cargo van, and I hoped to high heaven that their van had seats enough for all of us. Unfortunately, I was wrong: it was a van with only seats in the front and room for luggage in the back. Most of us would have to sit on the luggage en route to our accommodations. Ha. It was awkward for the first few seconds, but when the first drop of rain made its way down my neck, I was willing to sit ANYWHERE that would be potentially dry.

So, with five in the front (counting the driver) and the rest in the back (including Mr. Blinding Vest who didn't speak a lick of English) sitting on top of luggage, we set out. And when I say "set out", it's because "drive" is too good a word for our method of transportation. We swerved through heavy traffic at speeds that no cargo van should go. When the traffic was at its worst, the van went into the emergency lane like it was his right to be there, and I think we actually passed an ambulence on its way to an accident.

It should be known that, in any part of Europe, the lines on the road are only for perspective.

We finally arrived at Camping Fabulous, where we were to stay with the other traveling reinactors. Unfortunately, the van dumped us out in the rain with only our luggage and a prayer before leaving for more... er... duties, I guess. And while Lee went into the welcoming center to get the keys to our rooms, those of us with umbrellas stood outside in the mud. We were still cold, half-drowned, and our luggage was getting very wet as well.

[note: some in our group still consider "fabulous" to be an unspeakable word. Long after the trip, we continued to use "fabulous" in a sarcastic manner... or just to hear someone else from our group laugh.]

It seemed an eternity until Lee and Phil emerged with keys and directions. Now, the place where we stood had promise: the so-called "bungalows" nearby looked like glorified trailers, and made me feel like we were back in the South. However, when we were led through the rain and mud dragging our suitcases behind us, our humble accommodations were a bit less, well.... just less. One single-wide was split down the middle into two separate "hotel rooms", consisting of a cramped bedroom with three beds and one closet-sized bathroom We really didn't care, though; it held promise of a dry, warm place out of the rain.

Well, at least it was dry.

All of the rooms were cold, had non-working heaters, no blankets, and no hot water. So, we (myself, Chrissy, and Jennifer) put our muddy suitcases in the dryest places possible, stashed our umbrellas in the shower stall, and headed nextdoor to Naomi, Katina, and Abigail's room. They made us wipe our feet and remove our shoes before we could venture farther in, and while the room was warmer than ours had been, it smelled of sweaty feet in there. Jennifer disappeared to find Jordan so she could talk to Lee, and I stayed for a little bit before leaving with Katina and Chrissy to visit the guys. I was getting tired of smelling other's feet.

At some point during the visit to the guys' room, I asked Patrick to come look at the heater in my room, because I knew he would have better luck at fixing the blasted thing than I would. He and I headed back around to the cold room, and upon investigation, we flipped the circut breaker and Viola!, it lived! Almost. It still wasn't putting out warm air, and would reset itself when we tried to adjust it. Oh, how amusing. But it was working, in the loosest sense of the word, so Patrick started to leave.

And now comes the tangent aboutnthe doors. All of the doors had at least one issue with them: two of them would not latch unless locked with the deadbolt, one's handle would fall off in your hand (though Katina was able to climb out the window and open it from the outside), and the door to my room would latch a little too well (e.g. I had to throw my shoulder against it the first time before it let me out). Patrick thought that our door was like his, which did not completely close on its own, and that naturally we would have latched it upon entering the first time. So, to get out, he accidentally locked the deadbolt, and then couldn't figure out what was wrong with the door. We tried to get out, but we flipped the deadbolt back and forth so many times that we couldn't remember which way to turn it to open the door again!

So, as Patrick patiently fiddled with the lock, he turned his head to grin at me. "Oh, by the way, you're trapped for now."

My first thought was, 'I'm accidentally locked in a room with a guy. Wow. How cliche.'

After a while we grew increasingly desperate to leave the room, but just as Patrick was readying himself to climb out the window, I shoved against the door and (luckily for me, who could've ended up with a broken shoulder) it finally opened. Another crisis averted.

But when we had all regrouped in the warmest, least threatening room (the other girls' room, which still smelled of feet), Lee came in to give us very bittersweet news: we were still going to the banquet for the re-enactors tonight, but we were promised that we would have working heaters and running hot water by the time we got back that night. With that carrot dangling in front of us, we almost didn't notice when she reminded us to dress in costume.

Hang on... what was that? Costume? The students had all been under the impression we could wear our warm, comfortable streetclothes instead of our non-rain resistant Roman garb. Evidentally not... Lee had been told that the re-enactors should be in costume. Well... fine, if everyone else was doing it, maybe it wouldn't be so bad. So we grudgingly layered as best we could with whatever would blend into our costumes, grabbed our jackets, and trudged out into the cold afternoon. Sunlight was streaming through the breaking clouds, thus holding a bit of hope on the horizon.

With the promise of hot water and heat on our return later in the evening, our weary group headed down to the area where the buses were parked. May I remind you that we are in full costume at this point, and the most observant amongst us began to notice that no one else was in costume. Needless to say, a few of our conspiracy theorists (myself included) began to mutter about how the Groupo Historico members were probably laughing at us behind our backs. The entire banquet went like this, and many were more than peeved that we were the only visiting group who came in costume, aside from the entertainment. And, when we got back, the rooms were freezing cold, and we were still unwashed with no intent of bathing in ice water. We prayed for good weather over the parade the next day as we fell into bed that night, huddled together.

We awoke from our cold slumber to a mildly sunny Sunday morning. It was almost too good to be true! Could today really be a happier day for us?

Hmm... let's put it this way: before we left the States, someone suggested we name our to-be scrapbook about the trip "A Series of Unfortunate Events". If I ever find who said that, I will personally strangle them for being right.

Trouble started even before we left Camping Fabulous that day. When we tried to board the charter buses with the other re-enactors, we were stopped by several people talking to us in Italian. They finally found a translator, who struggled through anything from "Where are you from?" to "Where is your group?" in an attempt to help us. We thought she meant, "Where is the REST of your group?". Oh, no; she was asking where our group's bus was. Weellll, we had just hopped on the last available seats to go to the banquet the night before -- we didn't have a bus. So when she told us, "This... this not your bus," we panicked. How were we going to get there?

Fortunately, some other group let us jump on with them. The girls (plus Lee and Miss Teri), Jordan, and Andrew rode with the Bacchanalians (which turned out to be a bunch of people singing in Spanish and bearing the most frighteningly realistic adhered horns on their heads), and Patrick and Papa Phil jumped on with the group they called "Grumpy-Old-Men-Re-enactors, Italian Edition." It was a short ride, thankfully... I was getting a little wary of the guy across the aisle from me, whose horns looked unreasonably sharp.

It was starting to cloud up in the distance as the buses slowed to a halt and shuffled us out onto into the busy city, but we soon figured out they had dropped us off across the street (and nearly a block away) from where the other re-enactors had congregated. Had I known I would have to run across a busy Roman street at Patrick's heels, I would NOT have worn sandals without a heel strap. In any case, we found our way through the crowd to the head of the event (who called himself Nero...) and asked him where we were supposed to be. He showed us a paper of "formations" that instead resembled a text version of a pan of lasagna, and cheerfully told us he had to go deal with everyone else and ran off. Dazed, confused, and overtired, we resigned ourselves to stay put between the groups on either side of us.

Our formation? Naomi and Katina were in the front with their bright, cheerful, and particularly too-thin-for-rain costumes; I was between Patrick and Andrew, and we were second in line; Chrissy and Abigail were behind us; Miss Teri and Lee followed them; and last came Jordan and Jennifer. Papa Phil was on the sidelines, filming the parade. Luckily for him, he had enough camera equipment that no one thought he was one of "those weird Americans" and he was not questioned or stopped by anyone.

The cool thing was, we got our own flag-carrier! She was a nine-year-old Italian girl named Sylvia (and like almost everyone else, she spoke no English) who had either volunteered or been volunteered by her group. Her mother wasn't far off, and she had briefly spoken with Lee (because she spoke enough English) before we set off in our cozy little formation. Sylvia was placed at the front, shyly carrying the American flag she had been given.

As the parade went on, we heard an ominous booming in the distance. My head shot up from where I'd been trying to stare at Katina's ankles, and I swallowed nervously and said, "please tell me that was a drum horribly off-rhythm..." But a loud crack of thunder caused us all to jump. As we had feared, the clouds were getting bigger and darker by the minute, and heading straight for our precession. By the time we had nearly reached the Colosseum, a light shower had started to fall on our heads (and down our necks, which was cold!). The eternal optomists of our group agreed that in a matter of moments, the rain would stop and the sun would be out again.

Oh, yeah.

The bottom dropped out of the clouds. In a matter of moments, the rain had gone from an uncomfortable shower to a fabulous downpour that was a lot of rain on a lot of people who had no means of shielding themselves. Sylvia, our poor flag-carrier, was taken to the sidewalk by her mother and sheltered under an umbrella; we felt so sorry for her, as frozen and half-drowned as we all were. Andrew took the flag and we reassembled our fleet a little: Patrick was between Naomi and Katina now, and I was between Chrissy and Abigail.

The rest of the parade went on in this manner, rain and all, and at the end of the procession was a small tent at the bus stop where most of the groups had already congregated. But it was dry. We all huddled as tightly as we could, and I ended up resting my forehead on Patrick's back, partially hugging Katina, and squished between Andrew, Naomi, and Abigail. Normally I have fear of being trapped in such a crowd, up to the point at which I get violently desperate for personal space or make myself as small as possible and cry, but I suppose this only shows how a basic need can overcome an irrational phobia.

Also, some of us were able to strip their top layers of dripping wet costume, tolerating their mostly wet topmost undershirt (yeah, I was THAT prepared) for when they found a dry place to wear just their middle and lowest undershirts, and that morning I had slid on my jeans had been under my costume with the legs rolled up around my knees. ^^v I was happy -- I HAD PANTS.

a troupe of shivering bellydancers offered to give Katina a ride in their van, and unbeknowst to the adults in charge other than Lee, she jumped at the opportunity to be warm and left with them. Soon, our bus came, so we boarded eagerly only to find that we were still cold, wet, and slightly miserable, but now we had additional elbow room.

Just think: all this has happened, and it's only just lunchtime!

Okay, we arrived at the restaurant where the other re-enactors had already congregated. We searched desperately for Katina, and we were very surprised to see that she had changed clothes... and whatever she was wearing, it was blindingly emerald green. She told us that the dancers had borrowed a tablecloth and pinned her together in the bathroom, and she honestly didn't know how she was going to get back to Camping Fabulous in anything but her tablecloth.
Finally, it was time to eat. In all honesty I don't remember what we ate -- it disappeared too fast from my plate for me to become well-acquainted with it. But as fast as we all ate, it was still closer to three or four in the afternoon before we all managed to get out of there.

But our day was still to be eventful yet. Someone -probably with the dancers, because they were everywhere- caught Katina by the shoulder, pointed to her tablecloth fashion statement, and said, "Be careful, the restaurant might want that back!" Those of us who were nearest to her (including myself, Papa Phil, Patrick, Naomi, Abigail, and Miss Teri) panicked. Papa Phil quickly bundled her in his jacket and we smuggled her out of the restaurant before anyone could see, but by the time we found our way out, the rest of our group had vanished. We hurriedly searched buses in hopes of finding them, but to no avail; then we turned and, to our horror, a bus we hadn't checked was speeding off down the street. Wouldn't you know, our group was on that bus, and now we were somewhere in Rome without a ride.

Papa Phil immediately took charge and shuffled us to the nearest bus stop, checked the schedule, and cheerfully told us there would be a bus along in a few minutes. From there, we could navigate back to Camping Fabulous between a couple buses and two or three Metro stops (which seemed strange because, compared to where we were at that moment, Camping Fabulous was on the end of nowhere). So, when our bus came, we hopped on and took a seat. Keep in mind, more than half of our traveling circus was in street clothes, two were in costume, and one was in a tablecloth with a gold hairpiece on her head. It's safe to say we got some weird looks.

After a series of running to catch last-minute buses and an event in which Katina's tablecloth began to become unpinned in the middle of the subway, we made it to our last bus stop. We only waited a few minutes for our ride, but night had already fallen and we were getting hungry again, and with hunger came the overwhelming desire to be back at the Hell-On-Earth that was Camping Fabulous. But when we got on that bus, we were so tired that we forgot to watch where we were being taken.

After a little while, Patrick looked suddenly alert and glanced out the window. He looked back at Papa Phil a little worriedly and said, "Um... Dad, wasn't that our stop?"


We got off at the next stop, which was a little over a half-mile from our intended destination. So... cold, tired, hungry, sore, and minorly lost, we started walking in the direction from whence we came along the side of the road. It was exciting to walk on the side of a busy foreign road, for some reason... I think I was possibly delirious at that point to think it our entire day had been "fun", because I should have been grumbling about how the day had been nothing short of a lively romp through Hell.

But the day ended happily for us. When we got back, we found Lee in utter relief that we had finally returned. She had worried herself sick because the buses wouldn't go back for us, and she had held a sit-in at the front desk of Camping Fabulous until our group was either reunited or given better accomodations. Fortunately, both were eventually granted -- we now had heat, hot water, and a dry place to sleep. There was much rejoicing ^^

I guess it's true that, as the saying goes, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Writer's Block

It's 12:01 a.m., and I'm still up on a Monday night/Tuesday morning waiting for Katie to call me back. I lay back in one of the commons' chairs and set my cell phone on my stomach as the sounds of Great Big Sea blare over Rodney's* speakers, and I look over at the couch where no one is sitting. But if I concentrate hard enough, I can see that someone is sitting there; he has nonchalantly stretched his legs across the chair in front of him, and as usual he's paying me no mind. In fact, he's munching on the chips and salsa that I left there, and he hasn't yet paused to brush away the crumbs that are falling on his faded blue 'NIKE' shirt.

I pause my music. He finally sees that I'm looking at him and, after he finishes his mouthful, he grins at me. "Hi there. Surprised?"

"Oh, definitely." I turn my eyes back to the computer screen in front of me. "It's been a while."

"It has."

He says nothing more, and after a few moments the silence becomes too awkward for me to bear. I close Rodney with a tired sigh and look up again. "Okay, I give. What's the occasion?"

"None," he says, setting the chips and salsa on the floor. "Can't I just visit because I want to?"

"You usually don't. And besides, you aren't real."

He grins again. "It's not like this is the first time you've ever seen me."

"...well then, you'll have to forgive me. I'll never really get used to being able to see my muse." Not by yourself, I mentally add. Usually he is accompanied by my four other muses, and all five of them pester me incessently until I start writing with them again. It is in fact odd to see my muses when they are on an inspiration mission, but even stranger to see one by himself. There has to be a reason.

I look at my cell phone in anticipation of Katie's call, but to my dismay the screen remains blank. There's no convenient way out of the conversation that he undoubtedly wants to have with me. This doesn't make me very happy. "Okay, let's try this again," I say. "Why did you decide to randomly show up?"

I watch as his grin fades and, to my surprise, he begins to look very serious... and a little sad. Now I feel a twinge of guilt about being so abrupt with him, but he starts to talk before I can apologize. "It's been two months since you last wrote anything. We both know that isn't a good sign."

"No kidding." I mentally cringe at how harsh my tone sounds, but I continue anyway. "It's no fault of mine... I've been swamped with schoolwork. I'm sorry." I let my gaze fall to the floor, and he says nothing. I'm waiting for him to reassure me, offer a simple "No worries" to let me know that I'm not completely letting him down... but he says nothing. The silence cuts deeper than a verbal knife, and finally I can stand it no longer. "Look, I... I'll work on it, okay? I'm just having trouble finding time to break through the writer's block, that's all."

His voice is so soft that I barely hear him say, "you've had writer's block before, but never like this. You used to have time for everything you enjoyed..."

"Last year I didn't have to set aside time to write -- I was in high school." I grimace at nothing in particular. "...you know how it eats away at me when I can't write. Everything I start I never finish, everything I think of flies away the instant I touch a pencil, everything I write I erase or delete because it's just bad writing!"

"It must be so frustrating. I mean, to have all those ideas in your head and be unable to get them out..."

"Yeah, thanks," I sigh. "You're really succeeding in making me feel better."

He smirks. "What can I say? I'm a muse, not a therapist." When I refuse to respond, he lets out a sigh of his own and smiles tiredly at me. "Okay. If it'll help, I'll get the guys together and we'll scheme up something." Now he grins. "I could probably play a harmless prank or two to get things started."

I smile in spite of myself. "That would help. You're always up to no good, anyway."

He laughs. "Oh, I aim to misbehave."


The sound of my ringing phone startles me, and I awake with a jolt and scramble to catch my phone before it falls onto the floor. I rub at my sleepy eyes and look over at the couch, but I am alone in the commons. I sigh a little. It's always a bad case of writer's block that brings about dreams of my muses...

Rodney is still open and my music still playing, so I pause the music to answer my phone before it switches to my voicemail. It's Katie. I smile at the sound of her voice and, as I start to talk to her, I give the couch one last fleeting look.

On the floor in front of the couch, the salsa is still open.
*For those of you who don't know, Rodney is the name of my computer.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A Little Bit of Fun

Yeah, so this might be a cop-out update. I hope it is entertaining nevertheless. ^^

First, a few quotes for you.

-From family-
from Kate (all said to me, funnily enough)-
-"No, I will not card-scan your butt."
-"You're obsessing about the butter. Forget about the butter! The butter is just there, it is nothing! Do not agitate the butter!"
-"I'm poking you with the Finger of Blame!"
-"There is no age limit on stupidity."

from Mom-
-"Yay, tropical depression!"
-"The eighth wonder of the tri-county area: The Verbena Triangle."

from Dad-
-(while watching CSI: Miami)
Horatio Caine: [pointing a gun at the suspect] "Move and I'll blow your brains out."
Dad [as the suspect]: "I don't have any brains. So there."
-(while watching The Snorks) "You realize that all we're doing is watching seaweed talk to each other."

from Elizabeth-
-"Microsofy? Oh, I do love typos..."
-"Croikey! Oi'm an Aussie poirate!"
-"Stupid Neopets. At least Beanie Babies had names you could pronounce..."
-(on the subject of Strip Monopoly:) "Alright, give me Park Place and your pants!"

from conversations between me and Kate-
-(while watching Sleeping Beauty)
K: "Oh, great, she's gonna look like a super nova."
E: "You mean, like, frightening and yet awe-inspiring at the same time?"
K: "No, more like millions of exploded gas particles..."
-(from Fourth of July 2005)
E: "I love family gatherings. It's the only place you can hear Aunt Kathy say 'queer' and Grandmama say 'crap'!"
K: "Yup. Once the magaritas come out, you can just sit back and listen to the blackmail fly."
-(while driving)
E: (looks out the window) "Oooh, birdsh!"
K: "Who are you, Sean Connery?"
E: "Yesh..."

-From friends-
Katie: "You don't want to see my cheese in the pool."
Lizzy to Suzanne: "Your brain is wired wrong."
JJ, after watching The Fantastic Four: "Alright, I need some metal gloves and a bunch of jumper cables!"
Katie, in regards to Phantom of the Opera: "Masquawooooo!"
David making fun of my typos: "What the crap is a Fruby?"
Suzanne to Katie: "KT-sama, I'd thank you KINDLY not to hit me over the head with a giant salmon!"
Katie in my kitchen: "I think that freezer just tried to eat my hair!"

And, for a few more laughs, the website of the day is a fun little experiment that shows how easily entertained a human can be. Enjoy. (and yes, poking DOES do something... just keep at it.)

Never fear! My next update will be back to normal.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This is your brain. THIS is your brain on college.

Any questions? *grins*

...sorry. I couldn't help myself.

Everyone at Covenant is feeling the weight of the anticipation for Fall Break. As Friday draws closer, it only means more tests and papers to frantically finish (because, evidentally, the students are more eager to have a break than the teachers) with binge studying and all-night fervent typing that would make any amateur's fingers bleed. I would not be the least bit surprised if I walked into the Gallery commons one morning to find three or four of my hallmates lying askew on the couches and curled up in the chairs, their books still open, their fingers still clasped around pencils that have stopped writing intelligble words and have lapsed into straight lines of non-text; around them are the carcasses of Vault bottles and Red Bull cans lying in pools of their own caffeinated blood, with one lone survivor, a Coke can, balanced precariously on the arm of the chair and within two inches of an elbow-enduced death and its two-feet plummet to the floor.

Okay, I had way too much fun with that.

I do not think I could stress enough how much of a marathon week this has been for everyone I know. Taking test after test, writing and rewriting each essay or midterm paper until it is beyond mortal satisfaction and sufficient to be placed on the Altar of the Grading Gods*, and staying up 'til two in the morning every night trying to keep your head above the ocean of pages of homework, required reading, and thrown-out drafts of essays. And, to top it all off, it seems that every teacher on campus gets the bright little idea in his or her head that, "Oh, the students will have plenty of time to do THIS unrealistically huge homework assignment over Fall Break!" until there are so many assignments handed out that, in all honesty, I'm beginning to think that Fall Break is only truly a break from the Great Hall food.

(If you have not yet heard my spill on the Great Hall food, don't worry. I have no doubt that I'll tangent into it in another entry.)

Wednesday I decided to sit back and watch everyone in all my classes (which was hard in Old Testament, since we were all taking a test) to see how the average student was going about their week. What I saw, of course, did not surprise me. It was not unlike watching a group of travelers slogging through knee-deep mud that had no path around or over it; even a select few who were smiling during the morning, when I saw them later in the afternoon, looked tired from the extra energy they were spending to slog alongside everyone else and look cheerful doing it. I am reminded of my favorite definition of trudging as given by Paul Bettany's character in A Knight's Tale: "To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on." In light of that, it seemed to me yesterday that everyone has, in fact, succumbed to their fate of trudging their way through the rest of the week.

I am now debating the idea of a banner: "Fall Break: loathe it or leave it."

But now it is Thursday afternoon, and classes are almost finished for the day. For most, tomorrow will be the day that we all must survive (trans: "must stay awake during class"). For some, tonight will be the last of the horrifying dinners from the Great Hall until next Wednesday. For a few, it will be the start of a long journey to someone else's home for more experiments in learning to get along with new people.

For me, it will be a three-hour car ride home to my family, my cat, and the lingering hope of at least one guilt-free Big Mac or trip to Outback.
*No, Covenant does not condone the belief of bizarre deities. Students are, however, allowed to hold candle-less sayonces, and offer not-very-burned sacrifices to the Snow Gods (burnt offering = melting ice cubes with a hair dryer) as long as there are absolutely no candles involved whatsoever because of the fire regulations.

Friday, September 29, 2006

More Reflections Upon the First Month

A second update this week! I'm spending too much time writing about college instead of studying for it... and yet, I am content. Fear not, this time I promise to not go on a spontaneous rant about any of my teachers.

It's strange to think that I've only been at Covenant for almost six weeks, and that I've known everyone I've met for such a short amount of time (compared to my friends back home, the most recent of whom I've known for two years). Honestly, it feels like I've known everyone for much longer than I really have, especially the friends that I've adopted as "my" friends.

I adore my hall. Ours (called Gallery) has the reputation of hosting the non-conformists, the "artsy" people, and those who should be wearing leather jackets that say "Born To Rune" (yes, rune, because it's hard to find a Presby who doesn't like Tolkien) on the back. I love having this reputation -- if I tell people "I live on Gallery" and if (even with foreknowledge of how strange I allow myself to be) they still want to be my friend, I've truly found acceptance. And even if no one else on campus found me to be an appealing friend, I rest secure in the fact that my fellow Gallerians would still accept me. We all love each other, and I'm not sure why, but I'm not about to mess with a good thing. The community of Gallery is something that, apparently, is not as common for other halls on campus (note: I have not completed an official survey, and I'm prone to biased statements, so... yeah). Hugs are a common Hello for us. We leave our doors open to passers-by when we aren't studying. A semi-regular group of Gallery girls go to dinner at five o'clock because we don't see each other any time before or after dinner. We enjoy each other's company, not because we're forced to live on the same hall, but because we genuinely like each other. I can't wait to grow with my fellow Gallery freshmen and see future freshmen come to find out just how amazing the bonds of friendship between hallmates can be.

However, to put my reader's mind at ease, I must say that I am finding a life outside of Gallery. I love being with my friends from the former O-Team (I hate to admit it, but the Covenant faculty had a really good idea for getting some freshmen to know one another before school started... because it worked), who have now become my friends from Psych and Christian Mind. We already have some nicknames (BEAGLE! ^^) and running jokes that are going around. I've found friends who are from anywhere in the US, who come from completely different backgrounds, and all of whom have no idea what is so funny about any running joke from my friends back home. And, strangest of all, I like it. I see people walking on campus and not only have the opportunity to wave at them, but they wave at me, too. I've gotten to know a few of them more personally than others, and while they might not feel like they know me very well, I believe that I've found friends I never knew I could have.

I've found that I haven't been writing as much fiction since I've been at Covenant... because, for once in my life, reality is so much more appealing to me. (note: this is scheduled to change for Finals week) If only I could have my friends from back home up at school with me, life might actually be perfect!

More later. I have a lot of studying to do today. I'll probably get into my favorite stories from on and off the hall next time I update... I've got to think them through first and make sure I won't get in trouble sharing them with the general public :)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Reflections Upon the First Month

Where to start? There's quite a lot to cover since my last update. So much has happened, and most of it is actually a so comedic (slapstick, tongue-in-cheek, irony, absurdity, take your pick...) that I'm thinking about journaling every week about the bizarre or flat-out hilarious events in which I inevitably find myself involved after I graduate, using my journal entries to write a book about a wonderfully caricature-esque Covenant College.

Let's start with my classes. My major (psychology) dictates that I must take this-many "core" classes in edition to the Psych classes, so I am trying to get a lot of my required stuff out of the way so I can get to "the fun stuff". Ironically "the fun stuff" also requires the most work, as it is a four-hour class and all my others are two- or three-hour classes, but the only time I complain is the week before an exam. I will have had two exams in Psych before I take my first tests in Old Testament Literature, English, and Covenant's little "intro to reformed theology" called The Christian Mind. Tomorrow we get our assignments for this year's Psych lab: rats. We each get our own little rodent friend to train throughout the semester, but we do not yet know what we will be training our little rodent friends to do. I sometimes wonder if my professor likes to play mind games with us and see how far his students will speculate or how much anxiety he can cause. It also helps that my Psych professor is also my Christian Mind professor; when we have to take our final for Christian Mind, I won't have to explain to anyone that I couldn't take the test because I was on a field trip to a mental institution.

I also enjoy Old Testament, considering it is one of the few classes in which I have not been penalized for letting my required reading fall behind. Every day my teacher, who is quite possibly the kindest and most amazing man I have ever met, reads something from one book or another for a bit of a devotional; normally it's something written by C.S. Lewis, or from this little wonder called the "All-Better Book". Go look it up on Amazon -- it's so amazing that our entire class misses this little book whenever the teacher reads to us from something else.

However, I have to say that the most interesting class as of yet has been Concepts in PE. True to advertising, this class has more to do with concepts than PE. We write essays instead of running laps or taking hikes on the walking trails on and off the campus. We research and read articles online that scream "Get a life and go exercise!", and then we write a page-long summary about each assigned article. I read my long-winded textbooks for hours, only to learn that thousands of people die every day from a sedetary lifestyle. I don't understand why we are not practicing what is being preached to us, but this is all that the teacher (he is not a professor, and yes, that is significant enough to merit a raised eyebrow) prescribes, and we must, by his orders, make him happy.

Now I feel that I must tell you -nay, warn you- about my PE teacher. He is a lean (trans: skinny) man who is easily over forty, judging by the age in his face; his graying hair is always "styled" (if one can call it styled) to such a wiry and bizarre degree that I've begun to wonder if he sticks his finger in an electric socket every morning on his way out the door; his glasses, if the lenses were put side-by-side, could roughly equal the surface area of a pair of ski goggles; and he always wears the same horrible blue wind-suit because, apparently, someone forgot to tell him that certain highlights of eighties/early nineties fashion was buried in the same cemetery as disco and pet rocks. He preaches to us every day about how TV dinners are going to give us high blood pressure, about the evils of high fructose corn syrup and red dye number four, and about how every soft drink except root beer is going to kill us (it seems that, due to the skyrocketing levels of acid in sodas, our teeth will rot out and we'll choke on a rotted and fallen-out tooth in our sleep). However, his most memorable trait is that he is a very detail-oriented person and expects every other person on campus to be the same. In all honesty, I believe that he does not worry about what his students learn, just as long as they turn in their one inch margin, eleven point Times New Roman font, twelve point Arial Black heading, zero-point-five indented paragraph, left flush, horizontally stapled in the left corner, two to three page papers on time. He gets very upset if these insanely fine details are not followed to the letter. I am convinced that one day a student is finally going to turn in a paper that is exactly opposite of what is required, and it will push him over the edge and he will spontaneously combust. The only things left to prove his existence to future generations of freshmen will be his sneakers, those horrid bug-eye glasses, and a pile of smoldering ashes that smell faintly of Splenda.

Most upperclassman, when told that a freshman has this specific teacher their first semester, have typical responses of either "He's a psycho but he's easy" or "Oh God, really?" I have heard this same man described by my fellow students -mostly by those who have failed, by no fault of their own, to meet every nit-picky requirement for an assignment- as a "lunatic", a "Nazi in a windbreaker", and a "psychotic freak-bag" (though I personally believe calling him this is an insult to the psychotic freak-bag community). I have been so fortunate as to have been spared from his wrath, and even though he has invoked the fury of my peers, he has so far been spared my own. So far.

In as much as I have rambled for the past few paragraphs, I have not even touched the topics of my classmates, my hall, or the random but on occasion hilarious stories that occur from day to day. But that must all be saved for another entry... I think I hear my Psych book reminding me how much reading I've yet to complete before Monday's exam.

Today's Song: either "Let Love Grow" (Paul Coleman Trio) or "In The City" (The Eagles)
Today's Obsessions: Shinedown, The Three Musketeers, Terry Pratchett, MST3K, "Criminal Minds"
Today's Quote: "Wednesdays are like the hangover Tuesday leaves behind."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Family Gatherings

I found this on another blog of mine that I presumed Dead the other day, but I liked this little bit so much that I wanted to save it. Originally published 4/7/06.

Ah, the Fourth of July... one of the three or four times a year when semi-extended family invades my house. Mom is always flustered about getting the house ready, and normally my sister and I grow tired of hearing her shout, "Come BACK, girls!" from down the hall, so we stick near the living room where she can find us.

If Dad's family is coming, Grandmama beats everyone else to our house by twenty minutes or more. She's not a normal grandmother... she's more like the kind of old lady you find in a bar, caterwauling Irish drinking songs with the drunk, burly men and showing them pictures of her grandchildren between shots of tequila. However, as she is a devout Christian, she must vent her eccentric nature through other activities. Like dominoes.

My family loves dominoes, but it's not so much the game that we enjoy. It's the fellowship, the laughter, and the running jokes that begin from off the cuff comments from one Uncle to another. Someone always manages to land in the "Oh, Is It My Turn?" chair, and it's usually Aunt Kathy, Grandmama, or Aunt Karen. Jokes fly, laughter echoes through the house, and everyone generally has a good time. I even manage to have fun when the magaritas come out -- after the drinks are served, I find that I can sit back and gather wonderful blackmail with a smug grin on my face.

The festivities continue on throughout the afternoon, but I often find myself in the TV room watching an old Disney movie or two and, if word got out too far, I would be laughed at. But I don't mind. I even get my own magarita now that I'm (almost) eighteen. Hmm... Disney movies and magaritas. Not exactly the most traditional combination, but it somehow works.

And now, as I finish this post, I can hear that Aunt Kathy is singing (if by singing I mean making a musical attempt) , Grandmama's joking about being pulled over for drunk driving, and from the sounds of Aunt Kathy's song, Dad must've won the dominoes game.

I rather do enjoy family gatherings.

Today's Song: "Baby I Don't Cry Over You" by Billie Holiday
Today's Obsessions: Mystery Science Theater 3000, Alexandre Dumas, iTunes
Today's Quote: "I am such a geek... I know what DNA stands for, but I forget where penguins live!"

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Aug. 24, 2006

Yeesh. I don't update this often enough. See? I get a journal and I forget to update. It's a cycle.


I've moved up to Covenant, I'm settled in, I'm finished with orientation... oh, man, I've met some amazing people in the five days I've been here. Everyone on my O-Team is great! (O-Team = Orientation Team: the group they shoved us into last Friday. They grouped people of like majors, so we're mostly Psyche majors with a few English majors and a couple Undecided's) I get to spend a lot of time with the Team, too, since it transitions from O-Team into Christian Mind class. I've met two guys on my Team who remind me of two guys I knew back home, and likewise I've met a girl who says I remind her of her friend Caroline (and even started introducing me to her friends as "Caroline's Twin" o_O ). My hall is awesome -- they're friendly and hyper and stranger than I thought, but I like it that way. ^^

I've been sleep deprived to the point of hysterics, gotten behind in my required reading, and been late once already... and classes haven't even started yet.

College is going to be fun. I'll keep you posted.

Today's Song: either "Hollywood Waltz" (Eagles) or "The Night Pat Murphy Died" (Great Big Sea)
Today's Obsessions: Stargate SG-1, The Eagles, finding time to write, Facebook, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Paul Bettany.
Today's Quote: "I had to rate my latest fic PG-13 for sustained scenes of danger and graphic pottery violence."